Review: Dungeon Siege III
Dungeon Siege III is the third numbered entry in the popular Dungeon Siege series. It marks the console debut for the series, finally giving console owners the opportunity to dabble in the combat, questing and looting the series is known for. Take one look at Dungeon Siege III and you’ll realize that it’s definitely a pretty face, but is it anything more? Read on to find out.
Dungeon Siege III takes place in the Kingdom of Ehb, which has been torn by a brutal and bloody conflict between the Legion and Jeyne Kassynder. The Legion is a group of warriors whose main task over the last few centuries has been to protect the kingdom. When the king of Ehb died, Jeyne Kassynder emerged and began to join the people of Ehb as well as the powerful Church of Azunite against the Legion by accusing the Legion of the king’s murder.
A battle ensued that left the Legion almost completely destroyed by Jeyne’s vast power and resources, except for a few warriors. Your character is one of these warriors. Led by a high standing member of the once mighty Legion named Odo, you embark on a quest to restore the Legion to its former glory and end Jeyne’s reign of terror. I am personally a fan of the story in Dungeon Siege III. The story itself isn’t remarkable, but it is told from a variety of different angles. It’s fully developed. All the involved characters have reasons and motives for their behavior and everything comes full circle when you confront Jeyne towards the end of the game. You also affect the story with the choices you make in the game and there are multiple possible endings: at least two. After seeing the resolution of your final decision, you’ll probably want to play through it again to see the other possibility. Not that this desire will actually enthuse you to play through it again, but you’ll at least want to.
As I mentioned earlier, the game is a treat to look at. The lighting, the textures, characters and enemy models, everything looks good. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that it is currently the best looking game in its genre. Because of the overhead camera angle of these kinds of games, good graphics are pretty much required so that you can see everything clearly. Dungeon Siege III delivers in this area. Sometime things look a bit blocky, and this only seems to happen in large areas. I have all these compliments for the game’s graphics, and I’m playing the PS3 version. I have to imagine that the PC version looks even better.
The cut scenes are handled in an interesting, artsy way. They’re animated in a way that looks less like cartoons and more like paintings. I thought they looked awesome. In addition to the game’s polished appearance, the design is also spot-on. The playable characters aren’t really anything special (except for Anjali’s fire form), but the NPCs and environments all look good. The medieval buildings and cities are well done and so are the mythical forests, abandoned ruins and of course, dungeons. There is a nice variety of environments, and you’ll get to see plenty of each one in the process of questing and grinding, which we’ll discuss later. Notably beautiful are the big colorful spell and attack effects. In terms of appearances, Dungeon Siege III does not disappoint.
Sound in the game is decent. The music isn’t completely boring, but it isn’t very noticeable. Most of the soundtrack is a quiet mix of orchestral and ambient. Louder, more dramatic tracks are saved for cut scenes and serious exchanges of dialogue. Summarily, it is very cookie cutter. It is precisely the type of music you would expect in this type of game, and yet, it doesn’t seem to push through and be truly good or noteworthy. Please don’t take this to mean that it’s bad in any way though.
The sound effects are all nicely done and I found the voice acting to be particularly good. Every voice is legit and fitting, including all of the NPCs and player characters. Each time someone begins to speak, you actually feel obligated to listen because the voicing is mostly great.
The game-play in Dungeon Siege III is very straightforward, and I mean that in the best way possible. Playing the game consists of little more than felling baddies, gathering loot, lore and experience points and completing quests. That’s really about it, although you don’t really expect an awful lot more from what is clearly a dungeon crawler. The combat is handled in a simple, intuitive way. You can use standard attacks and special attacks that draw on the MP bar. Attacking enemies quickly refills the MP bar, making combat aggressive and fast paced.
This design also encourages you to combo your attacks together for massive damage, and terminates the need to worry about MP conservation. You can block to reduce the damage you receive and moving while holding block will allow you to do a dodging maneuver. Abilities are mapped to three of the face buttons, with the fourth one being used for standard attacks. Each of the four playable characters has a unique fighting style and two stances. Changing stances will give your character access to another set of abilities. You can also hold a shoulder button, which will give you access to your support abilities. In total, counting the support abilities and the abilities of both stances, each character has nine different abilities.
This may not seem like an awful lot, but this is assuaged by the way you can upgrade your abilities as you level up. Leveling up obviously occurs as you defeat enemies and gain experience points. Each time you level up, you gain points which can be used to upgrade your characters abilities and unlock talents, obviously called ability and talent points. Talents are basically passive skills which are unlocked as you reach certain level milestones and then strengthened as you distribute talent points. Some examples of talents are higher accuracy, better healing and cool defensive properties.
Each ability has two paths you can upgrade. The path you choose to distribute ability points to is completely up to you and should be dictated by your own personal play style. For example, Anjali’s fire form has an ability that sets the ground around her on fire, dealing damage to foes within it as time goes by. You can use ability points to increase the damage that this attack deals, or, you can give it an effect that improves healing for allies that stand inside the fire. I went with the increased damage because damage is the reason I used the attack. Not to buff my ally. You can also distribute a few points into both of the effects, if you so choose. It should be noted that you will not gather enough ability points over the course of the game to fully upgrade all of your abilities, so every point distributed had better be carefully thought out.
This fluid system of upgrading abilities works well and is enjoyable in its simplicity. The same thing can be said about the combat, which gets the job done and doesn’t make waves. It has a no nonsense feeling to it all and it is unquestionably solid. Over the course of the game you are accompanied by an ally. This ally will be any of the other three playable characters. You will be responsible for distributing that characters skill and talent points, as well as equipping them with weapons, armor and items.
If your partner is downed in combat, then you can revive him and vice versa. It’s never wise to do much fighting while your partner is downed because if both of you get downed the game will end. You can usually easily revive your partner, but my partner got killed before he could revive me more than a few times. If you have the utility, you can replace your AI partner with a real life pal, which we’ll talk more about a little later.
As you progress through the game, you’ll collect both lore and loot. Loot consists of items and weapons. You can find this stuff in various treasure chests throughout the world, but the best stuff is dropped when certain enemies are defeated. Equipping the best weapons and armor to your character is pretty much necessary if you hope to deal with some of the crushingly difficult enemies later in the game. Of course you can also buy weapons, armor and items from the shops with the gold you’ll gain felling enemies and completing quests. It seems that the stuff in the shops is incredibly expensive though, so it’s often much less of a hassle to just find good equipment.
You’ll also be able to sell useless loot off for more gold, which will help. Speaking of turning useless loot into gold, the game features an awesome transmute feature that allows you to change items in your inventory into gold. This feature prevents you from having to leave behind good loot because your inventory is full. You just pull up your items and get rid of anything you don’t need. Mind you, this grants considerably less coins than actually selling the items, but the convenience outweighs the loss. Also of note, you can visibly see your equipped weapons and armor on your character, which I recognize is a big deal to some people.
Lore is basically tidbits of information about the world and the characters in the game. Lore can be gained from examining certain objects and talking to NPCs. Lore is gleaned from NPCs (who have any to give) by exhausting all the conversation options. Since you make dialogue choices Mass Effect style, you can choose what you do and don’t want to discuss with them. All the lore is added to a big database of info which you can look back over whenever you want. The overall point of lore is basically to further invest you in the world of Dungeon Siege III and while it does complete that task to a certain extent, it does come off feeling pretty insignificant at the end of the day.
You will spend practically all of your time in this game questing. Quests can be found all over the Kingdom of Ehb. You will complete a few dozen quests over the course of the main story but there are tons of optional quests that you can complete to strengthen your character and gain more gold and items. They are mainly distributed via NPCs with big, glowing exclamation points over their heads. Once you accept a quest, it’s added to your quest list. Pressing up on the D-pad will send out a trail of floating gold balls. These balls will lead you to your quest, making it extremely easy to accept, complete and then get rewarded for quests. You can change the quest that is tracked in this way via the quest list. In a nutshell, questing is handled in a pretty standard, if well done, manner. This is the case with a lot of Dungeon Siege III.
Now we move on to the multiplayer, the consummate weak spot of the title. There are two flavors of multiplayer: online and offline. Offline multiplayer, as we touched on earlier, replaces your ally with a real life buddy sitting next to you. This is infinitely more fun than playing alone, but it doesn’t really contain anything special. This mode is also available online, but it’s easy to see how the offline version is more fun. That is the extent of the offline multiplayer functionality.
Now we arrive at the notorious online and as much as I hate to have to say this, what you’ve heard about it is true. Up to four individuals can join a single game and quest together to earn money, loot, etc. The only problem is, only the host of the game will walk away with any of that stuff. When you join an online game (I could never figure out how to host one, womp womp) you are automatically scaled to the level of the host. Your ability and talent points are randomly distributed and your weapons and armor are chosen in a similar fashion.
This is unfortunate because the character you leveled up in offline mode will stay there while you play with this new, weakened (or strengthened) character. The automatic level scaling means that you don’t even have to worry about going to a mission that is too tough or too easy for your character. You can pick up loot as you play, but like the automatically generated character, it will also vanish once you go back to your own game. As a matter of fact, your role as a player in the online mode is so expendable that you may as well be an NPC. The only reason you would play online is if you badly wanted to be part of a scenario with all four characters lighting up the screen in battle and diminishing every foe quickly and easily or if you wanted to help out a friend by accompanying them through a tough area or something.
If you aren’t the host, then you will not take away any items, weapons, armor or even experience points and gold. There will be virtually no real reason to play. This defective online mode limits the game in its entirety to its offline contents for true quality and this complicates things a bit. Now it becomes a mostly single player title (the local multiplayer is enjoyable) that is designed for multiple people to play it. If the online would have succeeded, then it would have made Dungeon Siege III a far better title and in general, a pretty awesome one.
In terms of replay value, the game has laid out four campaign modes in front of you. Sure the core of the story is the same for each one, but there are alternate endings to pursue, in addition to the prospect of learning about each playable character. To learn the complete story of DSIII you will need to go through it at least once with each character. Each play-through will last around seven hours. Unfortunately, the online mode denies the game of fun, infinite replay value (ala fighting or FPS games) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a sizable amount of content here. After all, it does cost a full $60.
At the end of the day, Dungeon Siege III handles a great deal of things very well. You’d be insane to say it wasn’t one of the best looking, most rewarding and most solidly crafted action RPGs on consoles. Its fantastic visuals and adequate story compliment its fun combat, character progression and questing. To the contrary, its useless online component whittles it down from the beastly entry it could be to something with much less class and value. It’s a complete single player experience, a flawed multiplayer experience and yet, overall, an enjoyable game.
Title: Dungeon Siege III
Platform Reviewed: Playstation 3
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: June 21st, 2011
Review Copy Info: A review copy for this title was provided to DualShockers, Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.